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Regina had started with LiveJournal. It had been the perfect platform for her requirements- lots of mothers, lots of group advice, a lot of support for her as a single mother and career woman. And frankly, when you’re ruling a town that never changes, you have plenty of time during work hours to get into lengthy arguments on the Internet about how little evidence there is for real benefits of breastfeeding when there are plenty of other ways to compensate, thankyouverymuch Kim R. from Long Beach, CA.

 

And then, unexpectedly, LiveJournal begins to die. Regina still posts religiously, defiant in the face of change, but more and more of her colleagues are moving over to a new site, Pinterest, where they can more easily share their recipes and new workplace attire. Reluctantly, she switches platforms, makes a new name…

 

…finds Mary Margaret Blanchard posting all over the Storybrooke tag. 

 

Snow White ruins everything, she determines with grim fury, and begins commenting with scathing distaste on her posts, every knitting masterpiece and every cupcake recipe and every single classroom idea Mary Margaret posts. (Henry’s going to be in her class next year, and she’ll be damned if he spends a whole year building birdhouses.)

 

She wakes up one morning to an email informing her that her account has been disabled for abuse. Well, fine. She doesn’t want to spend too much time in this close proximity to Snow, anyway. She can find a new website to pass the time on.

 

Tumblr seems adequate. It has large photos of exotic locales in this realm and others, delicious recipes, and some truly interesting scientific research. There isn’t quite as much interaction as she’d had on LiveJournal, but Regina isn’t fond of most of those idiots, anyway, and she’s past the years when she’d be frantically posting symptoms on the Internet for advice while Henry is coughing away, curled up on her lap with a fever.

 

She begins following bounty1983 for the explosions. The Tumblr user- her name is Emma Swan, reads her sidebar, but Regina isn’t there to schmooze- is one of the most popular on the site, producing and finding assorted gifs of dramatic explosions for her blog. Regina finds them incredibly satisfying, like magic she hasn’t touched in nearly three decades. 

 

She overlooks the meme posts and the odd passive-aggressive tag post because she really enjoys watching things blow up, and she has other, more important things on her dash. She begins to post Henry’s favorite recipes and articles on parenting she still enjoys, tagging each of the most applicable as "#Henry Mills” for organizational purposes. 

 

And then it happens.

 

She takes a photo of herself- just one, for her new icon, and she looks…well, not bad. There’s a bit of a smirk to it like she’s more than a mayor or a mom, like there’s still an evil queen hidden deep down, and her new, severe bob is set off nicely by her lipstick. If she ever posts a photo for her followers, it might as well be this one.

 

She puts it on Tumblr and smiles when the notes pile up. She has about a hundred followers and eight- eight of them!- like the post, and she even gets one “Damn!” in the replies. 

 

But bounty1983 has other ideas.

 

Regina has seen that new meme going around, the one where a gif is posted with sunglasses slowly lowering onto a face and the caption “DEAL WITH IT” appears at the bottom of the gif. She’d even snickered at the one of Disney’s version of Snow White with the uncharacteristic sunglasses. She’d never thought that she would become a meme, but then there’s a reblog of her selfie and Emma-Swan-aka-bounty1983 has gifed her. 

 

 

Within minutes, her entire dashboard is spammed with nonstop notifications and Regina is forced to scroll and scroll just to get past them. They’re laughing at her, feeding off the memed her, and she’s outraged enough to send bounty1983 a message about it. “Would you mind deleting that reblog? I’d rather my photo not get out to the world.” 

 

“Look, here’s the thing, sister,” comes the quick reply. “You posted it on the Internet, now it’s there forever. But you look really great! Like, really, really great. You deserve to be an Internet celebrity.” Regina quietly steams for a moment before the next message arrives. “Shot in the dark, but you don’t happen to live in the Boston area, do you?” 

 

Regina blocks bounty1983. Out of pure spite, she also saves the emmaswan URL and every single possible iteration of her name, hyphenated and pluralized and with far too many vowels. She titles each one with some choice insults and logs off of Tumblr for a few days.

 

The notifications never stop. Sometimes she’ll get a few days off from that unfriendly reminder of her photo becoming a meme, but somehow it’s always back after that, a constant irritant that has her furious at the audacity of it all. She takes to reading bounty1983’s blog on slow days at work, smug at the information about Emma Swan’s hapless life. 

 

She might have her photo plastered all over the Internet, but at least she’d never tripped at work and had a heel fly into a shop window and shatter it. She might’ve been a queen undermined by a woman who is now sending her son home with birdhouses every other week, but at least she’d never gotten her…date…arrested? (That one is vague and bounty1983 sounds kind of smug about it, but if you ask Regina, that’s just another indication of her character. Regina has no time for miscreants.) She might’ve been a bit fire-happy back in the day, but at least she’s never wound up in the hospital over an explosion-gone-wrong with an old pistol.

 

She’s rarely bored when she reads bounty1983’s blog, though she’d never admit that it’s more than just hatred that spurs her through. The fascination is all about hate, too. So much hate. She hates bounty1983.

 

She hates it even more when the posts begin to taper off, bounty1983 fading away from Tumblr fame as she grows more and more absorbed in her offline life. Her gifs become reblogs, her tag posts are her only original ones, and even those stop after a while. Regina still checks her blog, supremely dissatisfied with this ending to Emma Swan. She even unblocks her one day in a fit of pique but never does follow again. 

 

Two months later, Emma Swan arrives at her door with a winning smile and Henry beside her and no recognition in her eyes of a women she’d so irritated nearly a year ago.

 


 


 

“You’re Henry’s birth mother?” She feels a bit faint, like she can’t stand properly, and she wavers in place for a moment under the woman’s sheepish gaze. 

 

“Hi.” Henry’s birth mother is nothing like Regina had imagined. She’s young, younger than Regina- which means Henry had been born young, too, but she doesn’t look as though she’s done too poorly for herself since her teen pregnancy.

 

And she’s attractive. Very, very attractive. Regina grits her teeth and forces her best politician's smile. “How’d you like a glass of the best apple cider you’ve ever tasted?” 

 

She gets their drinks together and calls out from the kitchen, “Excuse my manners, it's been a long day. I’m Regina Mills.” 

 

“Emma. Emma Swan,” the woman says, and Regina nearly drops her glass. Impossible. She’d imagined Emma Swan to be some hapless teen in Boston with far too much free time, juggling some very strange side jobs and lazing about on Tumblr through the nights. Not…not an adult. Not Henry’s birth mother. This can't be the same Emma Swan. The universe wouldn't be this cruel. And yet...

 

It doesn’t matter, she decides. Emma Swan will be gone from her life soon enough. She will not have this threat to her life with Henry around anymore.

 

(She wonders if Emma had ever gotten that dog she’d been blogging about before the posts had petered off. Probably not. Her apartment building hadn’t allowed pets and she’d been really excited about how affordable it had been.)

 

But Emma- Miss Swan- doesn’t leave. Emma moves in with Mary Margaret Blanchard and probably does awful things like joining Pinterest to look at birdhouses. Emma gets hired by Graham and sits around on Netflix all day in the station, Regina thinks. Emma skulks around with Henry and updates her Facebook information and then- finally- makes a new tag post on Tumblr. 

 

 

 

“Yes, why did you take this job?” Regina murmurs, a smile widening across her face. Struck by an idea, she deletes her emmaswan account, remakes it under a new email address, and likes Emma’s post with it.

 

And the next one. 

 

And then the next.

 

Soon she’s managed to methodically like every single post from the first five pages of Emma’s blog, and she waits, smirking, until Emma’s next post appears. “What the fuck? I think I have a stalker?” 

 

She likes that post, too.

 

She waits up for a response from Emma, and she’s drifting off in her study when there’s a little ding for a new email. A message via Tumblr. "I don’t know who you are, but you’re clearly just doing this to screw with me. What do you want? I still have a good 12k followers and I can give you a blog rec. Just give me the URL.”

 

“No,” Regina says, and types the same into the answer box and publishes it.

 

Another long pause, and then another ask. “Did you save every single fucking account with my name on it? Who the hell are you?”

 

Regina answers, “Yes,” and goes to sleep at last.

 

She’s satisfied in the morning to see that Emma is drooping over at the town meeting, half awake with her head on the table. “Look alive, Miss Swan,” she snaps as she walks past her, and Emma startles, tries to stand and kicks out her chair from under and flies into Regina. Regina catches her automatically and stumbles back with the force of Emma’s fall, back into the table.

 

Emma’s hands land on either side of her against the wall, close enough that Regina can feel her warm breath against her face. “Steady there, Madam Mayor,” she murmurs into her ear, and it’s a mark of how tired Regina is that she’s left flustered and speechless as Emma backs away, eyes still glued to her and unreadable.

 

That evening, she sees that bounty1983 has undergone a url change to deputyswan, and she clenches her fists and likes the post in defiant reminder that she’s still there.



 

When the votes are in for the new sheriff, she’s quick to save three new urls before she presents Emma with her badge. Sheriffswan, sheriffemmaswan, sheriff-swan. She takes her victories where she can.

 



 

 On the night of the storm, the lights flicker and go out and Regina shuts her computer with a sigh just as she hears the creak of footsteps upstairs. “Henry? Henry, stay put,” she calls up to him. “I’m going to light a candle.” 

 

He doesn’t listen to her, stubborn as he’s been since that damned book, and she hears his footsteps coming down the stairs. “Henry, stop!” she orders sharply, turning from her route toward the kitchen to walk to the stairs. It’s dim, too dim to see anything but his figure coming down the stairs, and she cries out when he slips and comes crashing down to the floor. “Henry! Oh, no. Henry.” 

 

“I’m fine,” he grits out, but she’s already inspecting him in the dark, eyes narrowing at what looks like it might be a bruise on his knee, and he doesn’t flinch when she helps him into a sitting position on the floor.

 

They’re like that when the door flies open and there’s a government-issued flashlight on them. Regina squints against the brightness, her eyes burning in the glare, and demands- because it can only be the bane of her existence, junior edition- “Miss Swan, what the hell are you doing?” 

 

Emma lowers her flashlight, but the room is still illuminated enough for Regina to see her lick her lips, suddenly nervous. Good. She should be, intruding on the closest thing she and Henry had had to a moment in weeks. “I heard a scream.” 

 

“Were you standing outside my door waiting for a reason to come in?” Regina demands. And yes, Emma is soaking wet as though she had been standing there for a while, and she refuses to meet Regina’s eyes as she says, “I was about to knock.” 

 

“I’m sure. Get out of my house.”

 

“Mom!” Henry says, indignant, and Regina sighs heavily.

 

“Fine. Go to the bathroom and get the first aid kit. Not the sewing kit,” she warns, remembering bounty1983’s account last year of grabbing the wrong white box and assuming that the needles were for sewing stitches. Emma is incompetent.

 

Emma blinks at her, looking bewildered for a moment. “How did you know–“ Regina gazes back at her, her face carefully expressionless. Emma shakes her head. “Never mind.”

 

Henry is quiet while Emma gets the kit and doesn’t shrug Regina’s arm off his back, and he sits closer to Regina when she dabs at the bruise and puts a bandaid on it, so the night is still a success. Regina helps Henry to the couch and strokes his hair until he falls asleep, and Emma lights candles and watches them from a vantage point at the mantle (there’s no way in hell that Emma Swan, house invader, is sitting on her couch when she’s that wet), her eyes bright. 

 

“What?” Regina barks out, irritated at the way her heart beats a little faster at Emma’s gaze.

 

Emma shrugs, self-conscious again. “Nothing. I should go.”

 

“Don’t forget to talk to that stranger,” Regina calls after her as she clomps toward the door, leaking water everywhere. “I want to know what he’s doing in town!”

 

When the lights go on she extracts herself from Henry’s side and returns to work. Late that night, iamsheriffswan (whose name change had been accompanied by much colorful language online when she’d discovered the taken urls, proving yet again what a terrible role model she is for Henry) makes a post on Tumblr. “#asshole boss is still an asshole #but not a terrible mom sometimes #i’m kind of glad her kid had her for her non-asshole moments”. 

 

Regina has a minute to stare at that post, lips pursed together to keep herself from reacting in the way her heart seems to want her to, before she refreshes the page and there’s a second post above the first. “She’s still an asshole, though.”

 

The first reply is from a url Regina recognizes as one of the ones that Emma reblogs from most. “You so want to fuck her.” 

 

She slams her computer screen shut and goes to bed.

 



 

Emma’s posts are growing fewer and farther between again and it’s getting dull to be on Tumblr without seeing her blathering on and on about her job and her life. “Took the kid out on the job with me,” her last post reads. Regina grits her teeth and reads on in the privacy of her office at town hall. “I’m pretty sure he’s smarter than I am. No idea how he managed that with the idiots he had for parents.” She’s always careful not to identify the child she’s been running about with, but Regina grasps the confusion and smirks. Of course Henry would out-perform Emma. 

 

But the pride vanishes as quickly as it takes Regina to remember that yesterday had been a school day and she’d made sure to be home for him for it. It had been pizza night, one of the few times a week when Henry still smiles in her presence, and she clings to it as fiercely as she keeps a distance the rest of the time. 

 

And he’d responded by skipping school. She scowls at the screen, at Emma fucking Swan and her fucking terrible influence on Henry, holding him back when he’s bright-eyed and intelligent and could have the whole world in his hands if not for his fantasy savior. Fine. Regina can fight back online, even if her real-world plans are far more elaborate. Emma deals in memes? Regina can learn any weapon that Emma Swan has mastered.

 

She makes a quick call to Sidney and has a photo of Emma from Boston (that has her staring for a moment until she catches herself) on her computer in minutes, and it takes only a few more minutes before she has all the information on one of the current memes on her screen. Scumbag Steve. Inconsiderate, selfish, and sporting a rather hideous cap. 

 

She sits back and gets to work.

 

Soon, the emmaswan blog sports a shiny new set of memes of someone who deserves the scumbag title most. Regina is careful to keep them isolated to information about Emma she’s found online, but for a moment, she indulges in imagining what she could do with them otherwise. SCUMBAG SWAN; STEALS YOUR SON'S LOVE AND IS A TERRIBLE INFLUENCE ON SAID SON AND DESTROYS THE BALANCE OF YOUR TOWN AND MAY ALSO BREAK YOUR CURSE SOMEDAY IF YOU’RE NOT CAREFUL. 

 

It’s a bit long, perhaps.

 

She’s casually loitering- not loitering, supervising- outside of the sheriff’s office when she hears a low, “What the fuck?” And then, “That fucking asshole. You screw with me, I screw with you.” Regina smiles like a cat, slitted eyes and lips tight together.

 

Her smile fades when she hears Emma speak again. “Hey, Joe. Yeah, weird question- do you think you could trace a Tumblr account for me?” A pause. “Great, that’s great. I'll email you. Send my regards to the family.” 

 

Regina stiffens. Turns. Barges into Emma’s office. “Miss Swan, if you’re engaging in personal phone calls during work hours–“ 

 

Emma rolls her eyes and sits back. “I’m working on a case, okay? I just called in a contact.” 

 

Outright lying! To her face! Regina’s eyes narrow again. “I hope you’ll keep me appraised. In fact, I’d like to speak to your contact as well. I can’t imagine there’s anything more important than finding Kathryn right now.” 

 

Emma nods, not budging an inch. “Sure.” She scribbles down a number without missing a beat and Regina reminds herself to never trust a word from Emma Swan’s mouth ever again. 

 

She walks out of the office, triumphant, and doesn’t even comment on the way she can feel Emma’s eyes glued to her ass as she departs.

 


 

When she calls the contact, he stumbles over himself to talk about a kidnapping case he clearly knows nothing about until she says, “I know Emma wants you to track that Tumblr.”

 

“Right. The one that has her name.” The man on the other end laughs in comprehension. “Wait, that’s you? This is some office prank?” 

 

“I’ll pay you whatever you want to tell her you can’t do it,” she says sweetly, and he’s still laughing when he agrees.

 


 


 

Emma breaks the curse because of course she does. She can’t go anywhere without breaking everything around her, whether it’s her entire apartment building’s air conditioning or the beautifully crafted curse that Regina had poured her whole life into. 

 

Henry is alive and he hates her even more now, knows enough to hate her forever and Snow will take him away from her. She’d wept into his pillow until magic had returned and now she sits at her computer with grim determination.

 

The first message she ever leaves for iamsheriffswan on Tumblr is a masterpiece of profanity and threats and pure vitriol, a list of every terrible trait that Emma has and a reminder that no one will ever love her. (She’s surrounded by her parents and Regina’s son now and everyone loves her, everyone wants her, and Regina can hear the roar of an incoming mob to destroy her.)

 

She hits the send button and presses her head to the keyboard in despair before she makes her way downstairs to greet the rabble.

 


 


 

Emma is gone. Sometime along the day, she’d managed a reply to Regina’s message, and Regina finds it in her inbox much later.

 

She’d gone home from fighting Daniel- from killing him, as little as it had mattered by then- and speaking to Archie and she’d opened Tumblr for the first time since the curse had been broken. She’s still on the emmaswan account and Emma remains the only person she’d followed, and she lets out a low sob as she notices her last post before she’d jumped into that portal. 

 

“Leaving town today, heading somewhere new. I think I screwed up…everything. I never should have come here.” 

 

“You shouldn’t have,” Regina agrees, but there’s a catch in her throat and the words don’t come easily and she doesn’t know why, she didn’t ask for any of this and she hates Emma Swan and Emma never should have come to Storybrooke. She never should have shoved Regina out of the way when that portal had opened, either. Emma Swan does all kinds of things she shouldn’t.

 

She forces herself not to care, it’s Emma and she’s Regina’s worst nightmare after her mother, but then she opens her inbox and sees a frustrated response from her- “wtf do you want from me? who are you? i’m not even tumblr famous anymore, can you give it a rest?”- and she hates Emma, she hates her, and sometimes she doesn’t hate her at all. 

 


 

She absorbs a death curse meant for her mother and saves Snow and Emma, and Henry hugs her and Emma smiles at her for a minute like she’s a friend and Regina doesn’t know what to do about either of those things. Except once they’re gone she’s fighting tears at the inevitability of it, of acknowledging that she’d missed Emma and that Henry had just walked off with her and her moment of victory had belonged to others.

 

Congratulations. You just reunited mother and son. Maybe one day, they’ll even invite you for dinner.

 

She returns home and sits at her computer blankly, waiting for Emma to make a post explaining her absence or send her another angry message or something but instead nothing appears but that same regretful post from weeks ago, again and again and again.

 

The doorbell rings and Regina jumps, unaccustomed to its sound after weeks of silence, and she makes her way downstairs, producing a fireball without thinking as she pulls open the door with her free hand.

 

“Oh,” Emma says, blinking at the fire floating from her hand. “You really…do that. Your mom did, too.” 

 

Regina closes her hand. “Is there something I can do for you? Does Henry need more clothing? His comics? A new room?” She smiles, her eyes still dangerous, and Emma’s face hardens in response.

 

“Actually, I was going to invite you for dinner.” Emma shifts from foot to foot nervously. Regina stares. “Tomorrow night, I mean. There’s this potluck thing that they want to do as a kind of welcome back…anyway, Henry’s going to be there.” 

 

“Of course,” Regina says automatically. 

 

Emma brightens, a tentative smile on her face that shines bright enough that Regina’s dazed by it. “Great! That’s great. Uhh…how’s Storybrooke been without me? Henry says you’ve given up magic?” She glances down at Regina’s hand, not quite accusingly but…knowing. 

 

Regina can feel whatever magnanimousness she’d felt toward Emma in her absence beginning to disappear. “I just absorbed a death curse with more magic in it than anyone should ever consume,” she says evenly. Emma is intent on her again, eyes on her with something bordering on respect, and she doesn’t know how to deal with it except to continue with a cold smile, “I don’t have the energy to chat with you like we’re friends.” 

 

Emma raises her chin and drops it in a jerky nod. “Okay.” She spins around and walks down the porch stairs.

 

And just like that, she’s developing new emotions toward Emma. Emotions she really didn’t ask for. “Wait.” Emma turns back immediately. “Would a lasagna…no one’s making lasagna for tomorrow, right?” 

 

There’s something like a smile on Emma’s face, and Regina notices for the first time that a little dimple appears on her face when she looks at her like that. It’s disgustingly cute. Dammit. “Just no apples,” Emma says, and heads back to her car. 

 

The car is still parked in front of the house when Regina refreshes the page and watches her drive away from the study .

 

 

Regina’s beginning to agree.

 


 

It goes south fast enough, and she’s locked in her crypt soon after- and then in her house with her mother, who stares oddly at the computer once and asks, “Why does the enchanted photo keep saying ‘fuck’?” 

 

“It’s a blog,” Regina says, and clarifies nothing else. She hasn’t posted anything else, the temptation gone with whatever energy Mother had sapped from her. Being alone in the house with her is like being thirteen again and constantly on edge, waiting for the moment she slips up and is punished. She feels…unsafe, like she’s floating in water and there’s no land in sight. She misses Henry more than anything.

 

It’s a strange comfort, being able to refresh Emma’s blog and see her posts, even if the majority of them really are just “Fuck. Fuck fuck fuckity fuck,” and other similar commentary. Regina had looked at the dates and there had been at least one every day since Mother had framed her for Archie’s murder, and as long as none of Emma’s new frustrations are about Henry, she can breathe.

 

“I can’t breathe. None of this is happening. I can’t breathe,” reads Emma’s most recent post, and Mother says, “It’s time.” 

 

Regina writes without thinking, a reply emmaswan should never be leaving for Emma Swan. “What happened?

 

She can’t take it back, and she tries not to think about it or Tumblr for the rest of the day in an embarrassed haze.

 

She returns to her inbox with a new message. “What do you care?

 

I’m your stalker. I’m obligated to care,” she responds, wincing at even that admission. "I’m the mother of the child you’ve abducted. I’m obligated to care,” has a nicer ring to it, but at the rate that things have been going, she suspects she’d get more information as emmaswan than as Regina Mills.

 

And, in fact, she does get a response. “It was just some shitty stuff that the kid picked up on. Don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll give you better ammo for mocking me once i’m home and back online.” 

 

Regina writes, “You fucking deserve it,” and then thinks better of sending it. She deletes the text and doesn’t respond to Emma at all. 

 


 

Regina’s mother is dead, her son begs her not to make him love her, and Emma is busy telling him that Regina's a bad person. So all in all, she thinks she's justified when she makes a follow forever and puts only iamsheriffswan on it, thirty times in a row. It’s a thinly veiled threat, but Emma is idiot enough to take it as some kind of friendly tease instead.

 

She likes the post, reblogs it with the hashtag “#fave stalker after boss lady", and replies with a link that Regina clicks, wary of a virus.

 

It’s a music video of someone named Rick Astley singing something called "Never Gonna Give You Up,” and Regina finds the lyrics and glares at the screen, bewildered at the message Emma is trying to send her.

 


  


 

And then they’re in Neverland.

 

It’s happened so quickly that Regina thinks she might have emotional whiplash from hating Emma to…something that isn’t hate, from Henry holding onto her at the end of the world to being taken from her completely, from torture and sacrifice to endless night in the woods with a suit on. 

 

She sits back against a tree and tries her best to ignore the dulcet sounds of Hook’s snores and the two idiots curled up together, content in their happy couplehood even in sleep. “It’s kind of nauseating, isn’t it?” Emma says from the fire, but she’s watching them fondly.

 

“I’m sure the pirate would be happy to volunteer his bedroll if you’re lonely,” Regina says, feeling rather snippy about it. She’s always snippy. It’s worse than usual now with the constant fear of HenryHenryHenry pounding in her heart.

 

“I think Hook would volunteer his bedroll to you and you’d set him on fire for the suggestion.” Emma rolls her eyes. “He isn’t exactly discerning." Regina almost smiles. She does scoot a little closer to the fire, warming her hands against it.

 

“Trouble sleeping?”

 

“Henry,” Emma says, answer enough for them both. She stares into the fire and Regina stares at the way the flames play with the shadows on her face, making her eyes dark and then her lips as they spark and move. “I don’t sleep that easily when there’s…stuff going on. When we were home, I used to spend hours doing nothing on my computer until my brain was fried and I’d pass out."

 

“That does explain the state of your brain now,” Regina offers, and Emma nudges her, no rancor to it. “I know some sleeping spells if you need help.” She doesn’t use them on herself, refuses to sleep well when Henry is out there somewhere and probably terrified.

 

“I think I’ll pass on you putting me to sleep,” Emma says wryly. Always the apple. You poison two people and suddenly you’re the family joke.

 

Regina sniffs. “Well, I’m not going to recite you all the memes on the Internet until you fall asleep.”

 

“Memes?” Emma perks up. “Madam Mayor, do you enjoy memes?

 

“I do the opposite of enjoying memes,” Regina corrects her. “Though I do like that cat one.”

 

“Grumpy Cat.” Emma twists around to stare at her. “You like Grumpy Cat. I was on that Reddit thread when that picture first showed up.” 

 

“I don’t know what any of that means,” Regina lies primly.

 

But Emma is grinning at her. “Twenty-eight years in a cursed town, you must have been thrilled once the Internet happened. Have you been online in the past year, too? Was the Evil Queen wreaking havoc on Storybrooke while humming ‘Friday?’” That earworm of a song strikes both of them at once and they cringe. "Is there a ’Sh* t the Evil Queen Says’ video on YouTube? Because I searched once.”

 

“I thought about making one of those,” Regina says, and it’s true. It could have been a nice bonding project for her and Henry. Henry would have played the long-suffering mayor and she would have slouched around in a red jacket heaving exaggerated sighs. “'Sh*t Your Incompetent Sheriff Says.’” 

 

“‘Sh*t Your Overbearing Mayor Says,’” Emma counters.

 

“‘Sh*t Your Son’s Overstepping Birth Mother Says.’”

 

“‘Sh*t Your Grouchy Ex-Stepgrandmother says.’” Emma pitches her voice low and throaty, like Regina with a cold. “Featuring such hits as, ‘Miss Swan! I want those reports on my desk by tomorrow morning or I will destroy you if it is the last thing I do.’”

 

“‘Sh*t Your Wholly Unthreatening Savior Says.’” Regina adopts a whiny tone. “‘Regina, I can’t do those reports. I have to eat these donuts and then sneak around in your office.’”

 

Emma’s eyes glint in challenge. “‘Well, then maybe I’ll completely overreact and, I don’t know, kill your mother. That seems reasonable.’”

 

“‘I will fail to notice any of your plotting even though I’m supposed to be some kind of savvy bailbondsperson. I’ll just stare threateningly at you and hope you tell me something.’” Regina mimics Emma’s I-think-you’re-up-to-something-but-I’m-out-of-ideas glare and Emma laughs out loud. It’s not her usual snort but a real, full-bodied laugh, Emma Swan without the (sometimes endearing) sourness that accompanies her everywhere, and Regina is struck by it.

 

“You dropped character,” Emma says when she’s done. “I never smile like that.”

 

“And you didn’t?”

 

“That’s your evil laugh. Didn’t you have an evil laugh?”

 

It hadn't been an evil laugh, it had been joyful. About doing evil. It's a whole different thing. Regina almost does it, takes this ridiculous levity and does her best imitation of the cackle, but then she sees the smug anticipation in Emma’s eyes and stands down. “Goodnight, Miss Swan.”

 

Emma ventures, “Well, that escalated quick–” 

 

“I can and will set you on fire,” Regina reminds her. Emma gives her a dubious look and shifts back, toward a tree trunk and away from the fire that’s beginning to smoke out. “And it’d be a lot worse than that time you put a fork in the microwave twice in one night and the BFD fire chief had to call you personally to admonish you for wasting his time.”

 

Emma blinks. “How did you– That wasn’t even in my police records!” she says indignantly. “How much digging did Sidney do?” 

 

Regina smiles, as cryptically as she can manage, internally flogging herself for the slip-up. It hadn’t been in her police records; it had been a self-deprecating post on Tumblr about how tired Emma had been that day. Regina had smirked about it for days.

 

“You know too much,” Emma decides, yawning, and Regina waits until her eyes are drifting closed and she’s smiling as she leans back. “And you did recite me memes until I fell asleep,” she says smugly.

 

“This is not a sleepover party, Miss Swan,” Regina returns, but Emma’s breathing is already even and she doesn’t respond. Sighing at her own sentimentality, Regina gets her bedroll and eases her to the ground onto it before she returns to her own to dream of Henry, safe and sound.

 


 

They rescue Henry. Regina rescues Henry, with Emma backing her up, and she can’t help but think that they’re moving forward until later that night, after Henry is fast asleep and she’s settling down in her study.

 

It’s another of Emma’s ever-so-vagueblogging “#fuck fuck fuck this” tag posts, and she comments before she can stop herself. 

 

“What have you done now?” 

 

This time, she isn’t as surprised when she refreshes and there’s a message in her inbox. “Okay, Stalker, tell me this. What would you do if you share a…cat with someone and you think there’s something wrong with it, but the cat’s being warm and fuzzy at her for the first time in a while and you know it’ll probably break her heart?”

 

It’s cryptic to anyone except maybe the woman who does share a son with Emma, and Regina feels her good mood evaporate. Of course. Henry comes home with her and Emma decides there must be something wrong with him because of it.

 

She writes back, “You consider that you might have ulterior motives in suspecting that,” and closes her computer, suddenly in no mood to have returned to civilization.

 

Emma’s response is just, “I don’t want her to get hurt,” but it’s over a year before Regina sees it.

 

Emma still confronts her the next day, but she starts out with, “Uh. So Neal gave me this ultimatum to show up for lunch or skip out and I…I guess I skipped out. So that’s really, really not happening.” She looks to Regina expectantly and Regina blinks, confused about what’s being conveyed.

 

“If you’re looking for permission to introduce that filthy pirate to our son, you’ve come to the wrong place,” she concludes grimly.

 

Emma gapes at her. “What? No, that wasn’t what I was…never mind,” she says, her shoulders drooping, and Regina’s already irritated when Emma starts on the Henry situation.

 


 


 

And then none of it matters. They spend a night pacing in Gold’s shop with Henry- the real Henry, who holds onto her like it doesn’t matter that she’d wanted so badly to believe that he’d been himself the night before- and Regina avoiding Emma’s eyes until Emma finally sits down beside her. “No memes tonight?” 

 

“I still don’t like them,” Regina mutters, and Emma shifts closer to her anyway, a silent and comforting presence until Snow slides in between them to talk to Regina.

 

Morning comes quickly, and with it comes unimaginable joy- followed by unimaginable pain. Henry is back with her, in her arms with Emma wrapped around them, but Pan’s curse is coming and she’ll have to say goodbye to the thing she loves most.

 

Emma hesitates for an instant before she realizes, and soon Henry is in her arms again but it’s a goodbye. And Emma…Emma, Emma, who holds so much of her in her without ever pulling her into her arms…Emma is going as well.

 

Regina holds Emma's trembling hand in her own as Emma stares at her, wet-eyed and vulnerable, and promises her the happy ending she’d lost three decades ago because she’d been collateral damage in Regina’s curse. It’s different. They both define happiness differently than they might’ve once, because what once was love, family, a mother who loves me becomes Henry Henry only Henry with the passing of time.

 

Regina will lose him. But Emma…Emma she wants to give this gift to. 

 

She focuses on her as the curse comes, as she begins the counter-curse and raises her hands to the sky. She thinks little of the Enchanted Forest and what might come for the citizens of Storybrooke now. Instead she builds a world for a boy and his other mother in a car behind her, a world of joy and love where they want for nothing. 

 

And as her one last indulgence, in their happy world, Emma Swan still remembers that she has an online stalker hoarding her url.

 


 

I don’t want her to get hurt,” reads the first message in her inbox, and she has to scroll down to even remember what the context for it had been. Emma, protective as ever. 

 

She clicks on Emma’s blog, reads the first page. She’s been online sparsely, from the looks of it, but there are still little tidbits from the year, little mentions of the kid or sometimes my cat in the tags. “Henry,” Regina breathes, and then there’s the sound of the doorbell reverberating through the house. 

 

She’d woken up from casting the counter-curse and found herself in her bed as though no time had passed at all. But there’s a year of Emma’s life on the Internet now, a missing year she can’t remember at all but for the fact that she knows she hadn’t been here. The curse. Someone had cast the curse, again

 

She makes her way to the door with trepidation, drawing a fireball out- she’d done this with Emma once, and the awareness of it tugs at her heart like sorrow- and throws it open.

 

A very pregnant Snow blinks at her. David, behind her, says, “The curse?”

 

“Cast. We lost a year in the Enchanted Forest.” She glances at Snow’s protruding stomach. “Don’t worry, it’s probably David’s.” 

 

“Thanks.” Snow offers her a tired eyeroll. “Can we…?” 

 

“Come on in.” She waits until they’re seated before she says, “Emma and Henry.” 

 

Snow and David exchange a look that indicates that, yes, they have discussed it already. “We have to find them before we start wandering the world, searching,” David says. “And make sure that we can leave town without losing our memories.” 

 

“I can work on that.” 

 

“And we have to find whoever cast this curse in the first place.” Another set of glances exchanged before David ventures, “It wasn’t you, right?” 

 

David,” Snow sighs, but Regina is prepared for the question from them.

 

“Not me.” Regina leans forward. “But now that we’re here, I won’t rest until I find Henry.” She has her first clue already, but she doesn’t offer it to them, distrustful of the cautious way they look at each other each time she brings it up. Like it’s a lost cause. Like they don’t have faith in finding them at all.

 

So she waits until they’re gone before she settles back in front of the computer and likes the last five of Emma’s text posts. 

 

She knows Emma checks her notifications regularly- or had when she’d been running around Storybrooke with nothing to do- and she isn’t surprised when the message appears in her inbox a half hour later. “Hey, Stalker, what happened to you? It must be months since you last harassed me.” Months. Regina is eternally glad for the Tumblr sense of time.

 

She responds, privately thanking the incompetent messaging system that Tumblr offers, “I’ve been messaging you and you never responded, so I gave up on it.” 

 

“Damn Tumblr. Hey, you aren’t a guy with an accent and this kind of…odor of fish, are you? You didn’t show up at my door this morning and try to kiss me?” 

 

Regina sits back, eyebrow arching at that familiar description. “I am not, no. Do I have competition for your favorite stalker?” She imagines Emma laughing on her side of the screen, one of those genuine laughs that Regina had managed from her in Neverland, and her heart twists painfully in her chest at the memory of it.

 

“Nah, I prefer my stalkers far away from my family (which my new stalker keeps talking about, actually, and I think I’m going to have him arrested) and online.” Her family. Her family her family her family. Henry.

 

“And boss lady,” Regina feels obliged to point out. 

 

As expected, the next response is short. “Who?” 

 

She doesn’t answer that one, sitting back and furrowing her brow. Hook is near Emma, is apparently trying to bring her back to Storybrooke, and all Regina has to hope is that Hook has finally managed some competence. 

 

(They’re all doomed.)

 


 


 

But Emma remains the wildcard in the equation and she’s back in town two days later with her memories intact, working with Regina and encouraging her to talk to a Henry with no memories. There’s something about the way that she smiles at Regina now that makes Regina’s stomach drop, that has her longing for…irrelevant things. Regina brushes aside silly desires and focuses on the real world. 

 

And Tumblr, always Tumblr, where Emma returns to explosions and glum commentary on her new life in Storybrooke under Read Mores. “It’s nice being back here,” she acknowledges in one. “It feels like a piece of…unfinished business I never had a chance to deal with. But it’s exhausting. There's so much they're counting on me for and there's so much fighting and ugh, I can’t wait to get back home. Home is so much better for the kid,” comes as an addendum at the end of the post, like a justification that has Regina glaring at the screen. And then, a tag post an instant later, “#and then there’s boss lady.” 

 

She seems to waver whenever Regina is around, perhaps remembering who Henry’s other mother is, and the posts grow even more gloomy with prolonged exposure to her. Regina fights Zelena and is left scraped in the clocktower, David pulling her up while Emma calls for her, and Emma insists on accompanying her home. 

 

“You’re not driving home with a concussion.” 

 

“I’m fine,” Regina grits out, but Emma is persistent and soon she’s sitting in the passenger seat, fiddling with a very outdated radio.

 

“Your head doesn’t hurt?” 

 

“No,” Regina lies.

 

“And your heart. Don’t we need to pick that up?” Emma cranes her neck as they drive past the cemetery. “Is it in your vault?” 

 

“No,” she says again, this time flushing. “I gave it to someone to hold.” 

 

“Someone.” Emma’s eyes narrow. “Someone you trust?” 

 

Regina shrugs, unwilling to dwell on the man or the tattoo. “Robin Hood.” 

 

“Robin Hood,” Emma repeats, watching her with concern and another emotion she can’t identify. “Do you even know him?”

 

Regina shrugs again and they pull up to her house, Emma with a hand on her elbow that she really should snap at her about. But instead she walks in time with her, opens the door and silently offers her some cider.

 

Emma gives her a pained smile. “I’ll pass, thanks. I’m not crashing the Bug tonight.” She makes a quick exit and Regina doesn’t understand what has passed between them, and even less when bounty1983 makes a post later that night.

 


 

Emma’s posts get grimmer, day by day. She veers wildly from “I hate this place I can’t wait to go home I can’t be here anymore,” to “We spent the day together and fuck. Fuck fuck. I can’t do this.” 

 

They do magic lessons on a bridge out by the ravine and return to Snow’s for some coffee to celebrate Emma not being a crushed mass at the bottom of the ravine (and Regina still isn’t breathing well from that particular terror), and Regina almost asks her then if she’s planning on going back to New York so they can finally hash this out. Instead, she asks, “So, what did I miss last year?”

 

“Henry’s kind of a kickass writer, did you know?” Emma sips at her coffee and makes a face. Regina wisely abandons her own mug. “He does well in school and he still dresses pretty well even without remembering you. He’s…kind of perfect.” Their eyes take on mirrored wistful casts, and Emma leans forward, takes Regina’s hand in hers like Regina had held her own last year. “Thank you, Regina. I don’t know how I can explain just how much it means…” Her voice trails off.

 

“I know.” It isn’t the struggle Regina had thought it would be to be gracious, not when Emma is watching her so openly. “I love him too, remember?” 

 

“Yeah.” Emma’s thumbs stroke lines into Regina's palm and Regina’s flushing again. “I remember. Uh…” Emma is turning equally red. “So…I also have a good job there. A really nice apartment. Henry loves it. I nearly got engaged,” she says, almost defiant, and Regina’s hand goes limp in hers.

 

“Engaged?” Her heart beats wildly at that, stubborn in denial and paused on the nearly. It didn’t happen. For whatever reason it is that it matters- for Henry’s sake, maybe even for Emma’s because she has that distasteful habit of seeing men who aren’t good enough for her- nearly is a lifeline.

 

“He wound up being a flying monkey.” She grins, self-deprecating, and ducks her head, Regina’s hand sliding out of hers. “No more blind dates at the Bronx Zoo, huh?” 

 

A flying monkey. Zelena had gotten to Emma, too, manipulated her and…made her fall in love. Regina’s jaw locks together, and she isn’t sure if she’s more focused on the latter than the rest. She grits her teeth, annoyed with herself, and says, “I’m sorry.” 

 

“It’s fine.” Emma drums uncomfortable fingers against the table. “I didn’t really want to get married, anyway.” She’s watching Regina again, gaze gentle like it gets sometimes when she watches her mother, and Regina can only meet her eyes, breathless again with a different kind of fear. 

 

Useless, useless, she reminds herself, and pushes it from her heart. Emma’s eyes still shine and Regina tears her own eyes away, stares into her mug and drinks the godawful coffee. “And oh! Grumpy Cat is getting a Christmas special next year,” Emma adds quickly, and they’re back to solid ground for Regina.

 


 

She opens Tumblr the next morning at work and blinks at the screen. Emma’s gotten a submission, a link to an Indiegogo campaign. “You’re a bunch of assholes,” comes her fond caption, and Regina clicks on the link, intrigued.

 

It’s a project titled proudly, “LET’S FUND EMMA’S FIRST DATE WITH BOSS LADY!” and it has sixty dollars raised already. One-fifth of the total amount, which is- Regina blinks- three hundred dollars. 

 

 

 

The incentives include an autographed copy of “the best fanart of two hot ladies we’ve never seen online,” a “phone call to emma to talk about the date if she agrees to this,” and “emma and boss lady’s autographs if they agree to this.” Regina blinks.

 

Of course. Emma doesn’t ever identify who the kid she talks about is, never mentions their shared child or anything so complicated on Tumblr. They don’t understand that Emma’s endless depression around Regina is just guilt over taking Henry away from her. They’ve taken it as pining instead.

 

Regina presses her knees together and shuts her eyes, taking in a deep breath. It’s a joke. It’s a silly, ridiculous joke and it has no bearing on reality.

 

On a whim, she funds the rest of the Indiegogo and sits back to see what happens.

 

Emma gets an ask about it moments later. “EMMA YOU WON’T FUCKING BELIEVE THIS. SOMEONE FUNDED THE WHOLE THING. YOU’VE GOT TO DATE HER NOW OMG. WHO THE FUCK FUNDED IT. MAYBE BOSS LADY HAS TUMBLR.” 

 

Regina bites her lip in a vain attempt to keep herself from smiling. 

 

Emma’s response is a gif of a character Regina doesn’t know storming out a door. 

 


 

Emma never does ask her out on that date, which is to be expected, of course, though she does think she deserves a cut of the money. Her money, but she supposes that if it’s going toward Henry’s future, it’s money well spent.

 

And Regina…seizes the future. Accepts the past, looks at Robin Hood’s lion tattoo and determines that this is something feasible, at least. Not sitting at her laptop watching Emma from afar.

 

And then Henry is back with her, Zelena is defeated, Emma keeps looking at her with an odd, pained look- disappointment, Regina thinks, because New York is an impossibility now- and Regina’s been feeling kind of like one of the good guys at last. She has her date, but it isn’t with Emma, and as she bids Robin goodbye that evening and heads home to set up Henry’s room- he’s talking about moving back and forth between houses and she thinks that’s the best compromise she’ll get- she stops her mind from wandering to Tumblr.

 

It’s ridiculous. It’s gone from smug satisfaction at Emma’s mishaps to longing for…connection there? They’re connected. They’ll always be connected. She doesn’t need to log on and like some posts, be a highlighted rectangular line in Emma’s life who piques her interest. She has so much more than that.

 

She signs on anyway, sees a new post on Emma’s blog under a cut. “Today I managed to fuck over everyone at work, had to have boss lady bail me out, now have a new…family member of some kind in my screwed up family, and pretty much lost the kid. Oh, yeah, and boss lady is dating some jerkwad with a crossbow. Did I mention that.

 

The notes are all comments, people grousing along with her about her day, and Regina doesn’t know why Emma’s despair hurts this much, but she swiftly writes, “I’m sorry,” and hits the reply button.

 

Her askbox sports a (1) a moment later. “You’re still only my second fave stalker.” 

 

She swallows at her burning desire to cheer Emma up- even after Emma had been snippy and standoffish from the moment Regina had walked into her room at Granny’s with a Robin-induced smile. No one can be happy when Emma is grousing over something, apparently. “You’re entitled and obnoxious and you whine entirely too much, but you are my favorite stalkee. I think I deserve the same consideration from you.”

 

“Oh my god, you even sound like her. Or maybe it’s just me. I need to sleep. We can negotiate fave stalker terms tomorrow.” 

 

Regina gets a “Have a good night <3” a moment later, and presses her lips together, responding likewise- without a heart, of course, she refuses to pick up Tumblr vernacular- and certainly not grinning on her way upstairs.

 


 

Emma brings Robin’s wife back from the past. Because of all the improbable ways that destiny can hit her when she’s down, it’s like this.

 

She types grim lists into Tumblr, facts about Emma Swan that could destroy her. Deletes them before she can post them. Types new lists and deletes them, too. Returns to her scrutiny of Henry’s storybook in a huff before she’s back on Tumblr again, desperate for some news from Emma. 

 

So she can hurt her more. So she can revel in her guilt. So she can hear from her and not feel like it’s a concession that she isn’t supposed to be giving.

 

Boss lady HATES me.” 

 

And then: "I screwed up- except I didn’t screw up, I did the right thing, I know I did the right thing- and I just. I don’t know how to make this better. I would do pretty much anything to make it better but she doesn’t even want me around. We had a good thing going and now I don’t even know how to get it back?? She wouldn’t even open the door when I came to her office.” 

 

She grits her teeth, unable to keep herself from lashing out again, and she writes angry words she doesn’t regret in Emma’s askbox when it pops up. “I, I, I. Maybe she’d like you more if you cared a little less about yourself when you were the one to hurt her.”

 

“That’s not fair. You have no idea how I feel about this,” comes Emma’s response, defensive and even more aggravating, and Regina gnashes her teeth and slams her computer shut.

 

She doesn’t see the next answer in her inbox until morning, when she’s pacing the living room and preparing a message to send to Henry. She just needs some time to work this out, to figure out why it is that everything is snatched from her in the end, and she doesn’t dare hold on to anyone else before she does. She thinks of Emma for a moment, of her hand wrapped in Emma’s while they drink coffee at Snow’s, and yes. Her, too. Even if she’d never wanted Emma in the first place, she’d been precious to Regina in ways Regina refuses to contemplate, and now that’s ruined as well. 

 

She sits down at her computer, the fury still settling over her when she thinks of Emma, and when she refreshes her inbox, there’s a new message at the top of it. “Okay. You’re right. It’s just…it was her relationship with the forest guy I screwed up, you know? It’s hard to focus on that. But she’s been brokenhearted and closed off and I have no idea how she’s coping and I really just want to be there for her. Have a girls’ night, do some shots, whatever you do with a bad breakup. That’s it. And she won’t let me in to do anything.

 

“Maybe she doesn’t want you around her doing more things,” Regina mutters. She closes the window again. She refuses to give Emma any more insight into how she’s feeling now. She is done with Emma Swan.

 


 


 

Emma follows her out on her search for the Snow Queen one night and somehow by the end of the night Regina has discovered that Emma had thought they were friends. Friends. She still can’t quite believe it. Is that what they’d become, somewhere along the line? Are they still worth salvaging? Emma seems to think so. Emma had shared secret regrets with her and opened up completely and Regina doesn’t know how to cope with any of it except that she wants to go on Tumblr and talk to Emma and it doesn’t hurt to contemplate it. 

 

BOSS LADY DOESN’T WANT TO KILL ME. WHICH IS PROGRESS I THINK.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

 

Regina likes the post. Emma sends her a message. “You completely ditched me the other day, no thanks to you.

 

What am I, your personal therapist?” Regina retorts. She wonders if Emma ever laughs at her from her own screen. Not that it matters. “But good job with your friend.

 

lmao. friend. right.” This is the part of Tumblr dialogue that has Regina perplexed about the whole thing. Emma had been serious tonight, which means she’s missing some Tumblr tic or meme that would somehow make her “lmao. friend. right.” make sense. 

 

She shakes her head, long given up on the mystery that is Emma Swan’s blogging, and goes to bed.

 


 


 

How they can go from facing off against some evil ice queen to wandering through her yard with some new scheme of Emma’s is beyond Regina, but it’s been barely days and Regina is soulmate-less again, Emma is dodging Hook to spend time with the Millses, and mundanity has settled in with a kind of peace to it.

 

“You have to help me,” Emma is insisting. “We’re friends now, right? Friends support friends when they have to dump ice water all over themselves for Tumblr.” 

 

“Tumblr?” Regina says, wrinkling her nose ever-so-disdainfully and with zero familiarity with the topic at all. At all. “What are you, a thirteen-year-old girl?”

 

“Oh, come on. I'm really just in for explosion gifs." Regina nods in solidarity for that, at least. "And most of my friends are at least my age. And what’s wrong with thirteen-year-old girls?” 

 

“They make eyes at thirteen-year-old boys,” Regina says grimly, and now it’s Henry who lets out a whine of protest. “Henry is not participating in your ice bucket challenge.” 

 

“Come on, Mom, it’ll be fun! You can do it with us.” Henry turns pleading eyes at her and she’s helpless to respond to that. Which he knows.

 

“I will pour the water on you,” she decides. "That's all."

 

Emma’s eyes light up. “Excellent.” They walk around the yard, clearing the area where Regina’s going to do it for them, and Emma says, “It’s for a good cause –“ 

 

“Absolutely not, Miss Swan.” 

 

“Henry will be a star,” Emma wheedles. “Six thousand followers! You could be standing right there with him.” 

 

“Hardly,” Regina sniffs, and she’s allergic enough to Emma’s puppy face to add on reluctantly, “I did try to make Henry a YouTube star once.” 

 

Emma drops down onto a lawn chair, elbows on the table so her hands can fold under her chin. “Did you.”

 

“After those two little girls sang that Nicki Minaj song and made it onto Ellen.” Regina makes a face, still a little chagrined about the whole attempt. “He learned as much of the words as he could handle and I tried to have him belt it out, but our little boy is apparently not star rapper material.” 

 

“Hey!” Henry protests, returning from the house with a large bucket. “You don’t want me to show Emma those videos, do you?” he threatens. “I was a kid. I have an excuse. And I wasn’t the one rapping behind the camera.” 

 

Emma looks as though she’s just discovered Christmas. Regina smiles, looking forward to this ice bucket challenge more than ever, and says, “I don’t need a bucket.” 

 

“Oh, fuck,” Emma moans, looking at her face with trepidation.

 

“Language, Emma.” Regina waves her hand and her camera from old photo sessions with Henry is on a tripod in front of them. "And you will never mention that...poorly thought out decision...ever again."

 

“I can’t believe it. All that fire and magic and evil distracted me from the fact that your mother is a dork,” Emma whispers to Henry. 

 

Henry’s eyes narrow, unamused. “Stop provoking her when she’s about to freeze us to death!” he hisses.

 

“Are you ready?” Regina asks sweetly, adjusting the frame. They both bob their heads, hands together as though they’re waiting for their doom- which they might as well be- and Regina hits the play button and circles around them as Emma begins to speak.

 

“Hi, I’m…uh, iamsheriffswan and this is the kid and we accept the ice bucket challenge!” She beams at the screen as Regina climbs onto the chair set up behind her. Waits. Emma tilts her head up, “Regina, are you…?”

 

Ice water pours down from the sky onto Emma’s upturned face as she shrieks, hands up against her ears and pulling hair out of her face. Beside her, Henry is laughing, having been warned beforehand to keep his head down and the water on his head more of a cupful than a deluge. Emma gasps for a minute before she manages, “I challenge all my followers- including you, Ruby- and Mayor Mills herself!” 

 

“Wait, wha–“ Regina starts, but Emma is already pulling her down and giving her a big-armed hug, soaking wet and freezing cold and cackling so hard that Regina laughs through the outrage, too. And Emma is so close and her tank top is molded to her skin and Regina is only wearing a thin blouse and she’s so caught up in that discovery that she doesn’t see the (conveniently full, after Henry had left it beside Emma) bucket until it’s overturned onto her head and they’re apart again, Regina indignantly shouting, “Do you know how much this cost?” and Henry cackling as loudly as Emma had before.

 

This, she thinks, when they’re all wrapped in blankets and eating s’mores in front of the fireplace, comes dangerously close to that happy ending Emma had promised her.

 


 


 

She’s smiling to herself as she likes Emma’s last post when the front door flies open and bangs against the wall.

 

“Henry?” Regina calls. He’s supposed to be at Emma’s tonight, but no one else would barge into her house like…

 

Yes. Someone would. She slams her computer shut a moment too late, spins around and finds Emma standing in the doorway of her study. “Emmaswan,” Emma says.

 

“That…is your name,” Regina responds slowly, eyes flickering to the computer.

 

“No. Emmaswan. No space. Tumblr user. Kind of a stalker.” Emma takes a step forward and Regina is silent. “I should have figured it out when you vanished for a year. But I didn’t realize until someone pointed it out to me today and it all came together. We met before Henry.” 

 

“It’s possible,” Regina acknowledges, opening her computer again so the blue Tumblr dash glows in the dim room. Years of work, all gone in a minute. She isn't as upset about it as she thought she might be.

 

"You tagged Henry Mills in every single post you made." Emma rubs her forehead. "Someday we're going to have to have a talk about Internet privacy for kids." 

 

"None of this proves I'm emmaswan," Regina points out, but she's already half smiling, already prepared for Emma's wonder.

 

Emma shakes her head, still disbelieving as she leans over Regina's shoulder to squint at the URL of her tumblog. “I can put together the pieces. I made you into a meme. My god, I hit on you. I never hit on anyone on Tumblr. But you were…wow." She laughs uncomfortably. "You blocked me and I thought it was worth it. And then you revenge-hoarded every Emma Swan URL under the sun because you’re Regina and of course you did.” 

 

“You didn’t hit on me.” Regina zeroes in on the most important part of what Emma is saying. Her mind is unraveling, pieces of a long-ago conversation returning and making new sense in her mind. “Why would you have…you like men.” 

 

“You’ve been on my Tumblr and you still think I just prefer men?” Emma says disbelievingly. “How the fuck are you this-“ Regina kisses her.  It feels very right, like coming home to rest after a long, weary journey.

 

Emma stops speaking at once, hands sliding to Regina's hips as she matches the kiss with equal energy and they stumble backward against the wall. “I spent so long pining over you,” Emma gasps into her mouth, hands sliding up under Regina’s silky pajama top. Regina sighs in approval and nips at Emma’s lip.

 

“I thought you felt guilty. About New York and…everything. I funded your date with me.” Regina’s fingers have a mind of their own, easing Emma’s jacket off and running along Emma’s bare arms. It's been too long. She's been waiting too long for this. She won't wait anymore.  “I wanted to see if you’d…” 

 

Emma shivers under her touch and angles them closer to the couch. They tumble down, Emma ripping her top in the process, and she muffles her outrage with another kiss. “I kept the money safe. Just in case. You owe one of my friends an autograph.” She unbuttons the top of the pajamas, kissing her way down Regina’s jaw to her neck and then along her collarbone. “You talked to me. When you hated me. You told me to stop being so self-absorbed.” 

 

Regina pushes up off of her for a moment, breathing hard, and Emma stares up at her with sudden apprehension. She clears her throat. “What the hell does ‘lmao. friends. right,’ mean?”  she demands.

 

Emma blinks at her for a moment in shocked confusion before she laughs. “My god, Regina, it means ‘No one on the Internet thinks that I’m not in love with boss lady,’ you dork.” 

 

“Oh.” Love. In love. She’d been mooning over Emma and refusing to acknowledge the whole doomed affair, and she’d had the tools with her to stop it all along. She kisses Emma again, grunts “Off,” until she removes her tank top, and murmurs, “I loved you too, you useless idiot,” and sticks her fingers down Emma’s pants. 

 

Emma pants, “Fave stalker number one on all counts,” and arches back against the arm of the couch.

 


 

She wakes up on her couch with a blanket over her, a pleasantly sated feeling, and the flicker of the computer screen. “Emma, don’t tell me you’re posting about this now,” she groans from the couch. “Come back here.”

 

Emma jumps guiltily and Regina sits up, suspicion flooding her. “What are you…” she catches the screen, Tumblr’s settings page open in front of Emma, and charges for the computer. 

 

They wind up in a mess of legs on the floor, the laptop between them, and Emma hits the logout button just in time. “You took my URL!” Regina accuses.

 

“It’s mine! it is literally my name. My actual name. I think I’ve suffered long enough without it.” Emma glares at her with defiance.

 

Well, actually it’s more at her chest, and it may be lust instead. “Did you sleep with me just to get the emmaswan url back?” she demands. “Is this some con of yours? Because I know about at least two incidents that could have you jobless in a second.” She snaps her fingers and Emma sighs heavily, putting the computer aside and leaning down to kiss her.

 

“No, I slept with you because I’ve wanted to do that since I jammed sunglasses on your head and captioned it 'DEAL WITH IT.’ The url change came after. I’m very good at multitasking like that. Just ask boss lady.” Emma licks her lips and buries her face between Regina’s legs.

 

She’s a smug asshole is what she is. But Regina can work with that. She leans back against the desk and warns Emma, “This isn’t over.”

 

“I’ll make it up to you,” Emma promises, tongue dipping against Regina’s clit until she groans. She pops her head up. “I have a whole lot of cash to spend on something nice for you. Maybe jewelry.” A calculating look appears on her face, as though she’s already measuring the aftermath of what she says next, and Regina tenses, expecting the worst.

 

The worst comes. “I know you crave that mineral,” Emma says, grinning like the cat that got the cream as she dives back down into Regina. 

 

Regina glowers. “Get out of my house,” she orders, and winds her legs around Emma anyway in defiance of her own dismissal, holding her close.